Thursday, December 15, 2016

Doggy Language- What is a Therapy Dog?

December 15, 2016
Kerrie Jo Larson, CSAC 

Doggy Language- What is a Therapy Dog?

Hi. My name is Cash. Most of you know me from hanging around the clinic here at Esprit, I started my career at a young age. 
From the age of 8 weeks until I was about 16 weeks, I spent half the time at the clinic swaddled.  I got to get out occasionally, but mostly I had to sleep.  Something about puppies needing 15-18 hours of sleep a day until they are older.  So, then I had to take a break for a while because I was too big to swaddle anymore and mom said I needed sleep and play. 
Just after his really cool day when I got lots of gourmet treats, which I heard them call a birthday, I got to start coming back to the clinic again. And guess what?  Everyone remembered me!  They were so excited to see me, they remembered how cool I was!
I love all the places I get to go, I have met so many cool people.  Humans are easy, they just love me right away, I don’t even have to do anything.
The nursing homes and library are great, although I love going to Esprit the best.  I have all my own stuff there.  On breaks I even get to go outside and stalk the squirrels.  It’s a great stress reliever. 
Speaking of stress, you should probably know, it’s kind of like the sleep thing. I keep hearing human talk about stress levels and self-care.  These counselors take things pretty seriously.  Just because I started exploring the office during a session, and stuck my head in a garbage can doesn’t mean I am stressed.  And if you didn’t want me to try to launch myself on the bookcase, you should not have put the bag of treats there.  Fine, I might have been a little stressed, but who doesn’t turn to food in those moments?

So here is the deal.  When I get a little sassy or I have an off day, I wind up having to stay home a lot more.   So, I put together a list of things that help me stay calm and cool.  It would be great if you could help me out, that way I can hang out more often.

1.   There is a rule that I cannot ever lead the way into a room, my human must lead and then I get to go to.  When the door opens and you get all excited and start talking to me in that voice that lets me know you love me, you really love me, I get so excited!  Psst…I get docked for that so if you could play it a little cooler, it would help me out a lot.
2.  Um that means playing it cool when approaching me too.  It feels a little forward, especially if we have just met, for you to come straight at me.   A side approach is even better if it’s our first meeting and if you stare at me it feels awkward.  We must get to know each other a bit better first.
3.  Please check with my mom first.  I get extra treats when I remember to lock eyes with her and get my own kind of permission, she might give you some too if you remember to ask if you can pet me. 
Even though I am a therapy dog and I am pretty used to being this awesome, after a long visit or long day at the office, sometimes I get a little cautious.  You humans don’t walk around hugging strangers, and don’t get me wrong, I love the attention, but sometimes we must rein it in just a little.
4.  Oh, and speaking of boundaries, if you wouldn’t mind not reaching over my head, that would be great.  I love my chin and my chest scratched, that makes me melt.  But when you start reaching over my head…well again…we must slow things down a bit.
5.  Wait for me to get the go ahead to greet you.  I was born for this stuff.   I love to hang out with everyone I meet, so don’t worry, as soon as I get the green light, I am yours. Especially if you could grab a few treats from the bookcase, after asking permission of course.
6.  If I back away from you or lay down to go to sleep for a bit don’t take it personal.  Just last week I was surrounded by 4 wheelchairs in this other place, and alarms were going off, people were coming and going, it was a crazy place.  And I fell asleep right in the middle of that nursing home, surrounded by people talking to me and loving me.  Sometimes I just get tired.
7.  Oh, and one last one, please don’t put your face by mine.  I see humans doing it and they seem happy about this.  For us dogs, it’s just weird and awkward. 
So, that’s pretty much it.  That is my self-care plan.  I get so excited when we turn the corner by the office, I can barely stand it.  I am getting to know those other places we go too and each place has awesome people that love me!  So, give me a paw…er, hand in this so I can hang out lots, ok? 

Kerrie Jo Larson, CSAC is co-owner of Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kerrie is also a counselor with a passion for helping people restore balance and health to their lives. As a counselor, educator, coach and trainer, she is involved in your community and works for overall wellness on multiple levels. She has been a counselor in the field of addictions since 1996 and has worked in a variety of settings with a wide range of experience. She is extremely passionate about utilizing dogs in the therapeutic setting. Kerrie has several dogs that are trained, or are in the process of training to become certified therapy dogs. Her knowledge and expertise in this area add a unique and comprehensive perspective to the Esprit Clinic. To schedule an appointment with Kerrie, please go to and schedule today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Surviving the Holidays.. Falalalala

November 30, 2016

Kaitlyn Gitter, LPC

It’s nearing the holidays once again. That time of year where we sip hot cocoa, enjoy delicious meals, and partake in family traditions. The time of year that is supposed to be warm and fuzzy, where everyone smiles and gets along like one big happy family…or at least that’s the part that people put on facebook. The reality is that for many people the holidays are stressful! Your “to do” list may seem to be longer than ever and meeting the demands and expectations of family members just as unreasonable. We are taught to believe that being with family is something we are supposed to enjoy and look forward to each holiday but if this is not your reality that is OK. Cut yourself some slack, no family is perfect and if seeing Uncle Jerry and listening to him talk about why his kids are better than yours or hearing Grandma Lucile say you never come visit her is mind-numbing, I assure you that you are not alone. We all have unreasonable people in our lives, often times in our family. We may avoid seeing them most of the year but the holidays are a sure way to end up at the dinner table across from them. This holiday season I want to give you a few tips that I discovered in Dr. Alan Godwins book How to Solve your People Problems on how to deal with these unreasonable people. Consider this a gift to yourself this year

1.       Expect the Drama
Go into your holiday get-togethers expecting there to be drama because there was last year and every year before that. Often times we go into a situation expecting and hoping it will be different and then are let down or surprised when our family members simply act the way they always have. By expecting the drama we can prepare ourselves and not set ourselves up for disappointment.
2.       Don’t React
This can be a tough one especially with people that really know how to push our buttons but most of the time reacting only escalates the situation and leaves you feeling more miserable. So when cousin Marie starts talking politics just like she always does chose to not react. Chose to not respond emotionally, not as a way of giving in or letting her win but as a way to make the day more enjoyable for you. Let’s face it, feeling angry or hurt isn’t comfortable. You can choose to not react in that way.
3.       Plan a Response
Since you are planning that your family is going to act the way they always have you are able to plan a response. So when your mother-in-law lays on the guilt trip about you missing last Christmas or that they never get to see the grandkids you can have a planned response that can be presented calmly and respectfully. In this situation something like “I’m sorry you feel that way, you are important to us and we are doing the best we can”, will often take the tension out of a brewing argument.
4.       Set Boundaries
Lastly, set boundaries that work for you. There are different ways of doing this both physically and emotionally. In terms of physical boundaries it is ok to say NO when you are asked to attend four different holiday gatherings on the same day. That sounds exhausting and stressful, setting a boundary that works for you and makes the day more enjoyable. Agree to attend one or two of the parties and find another time to meet with family or friends that you missed on the holiday. Setting emotional boundaries means making others aware when their actions are impacting mental health and well-being. For instance, when Grandpa Joe makes comments about your choice in dating partners or Aunt Carol criticizes your adult child for not finishing school kindly set emotional boundaries. Making statements like, “I appreciate you being concerned about the well-being of me and my family but your comments are often hurtful”. Another option would be “I know that you care but please trust that I am listening to myself and doing what is best for me and my family. “ Then allow yourself to move on from the conversation and to not ruminate about it the remainder of the day. You can chose to not let these interactions ruin your holiday.

So in this season of giving, don’t forget to give a little to yourself as well. Listen to yourself and honor your needs, they are equally as important as the needs of other. We can’t change the unreasonable people in our lives but we can change the way we react to them

Happy Holidays!

Godwin, Alan. 2011. 
How to Solve Your People Problems. 
Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers


Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kaitlyn believes that human connection and growth are the keys to emotional wellness. She is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful experience to explore your life story.  Kaitlyn works with children, adolescents, families, and couples and has a special interest in working with individuals who have an eating disorder.  To schedule an appointment with Kaitlyn now, please go to

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What is EMDR?

November 15, 2016

Kathy Thome, LPC

Having been fascinated with how this therapy helps people recover from traumatic experiences, I was recently trained to do EMDR. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a therapeutic tool that seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information that is “stuck”.  These stuck sensations (such as images, feelings, sounds, and smells) can cause people lasting negative effects in their daily lives.
A successful EMDR session has helped people be less disturbed by the memories or triggers that evoke those memories. Traumatic memories become stuck because when someone becomes very upset, the brain does not process information in the same way it does ordinary memories.  That trauma becomes “frozen in time” and each time you remember it, it is as though you are experiencing the memory as you did the first time. 

EMDR allows for your brain to process those memories that are frozen and store them as it would store other information. Each client is different in how they have experienced trauma and how long it takes for them to recover from it.  EMDR is not a “one size fits all” technique.  Each client is adequately prepared to process the trauma prior to having his/her first EMDR session. If you would like to experience a session utilizing EMDR, schedule with Kathy in the bio below.

For more information about EMDR, go to:

Kathy is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling & Consulting in Neenah, WI.  She has extensive experience working with individuals, couples, and families who want to make changes in their lives.  Kathy believes that you possess the tools necessary to make positive changes in your life, and she offers a comfortable, open, and supportive setting in which to do so. Kathy's experience as a teacher and school counselor also offer a unique perspective when working with adolescents and their families. She is currently accepting new clients. To schedule an appointment with Kathy, please go to and schedule online today.